On January 14, 2013, I launched a blog called Learning by Accident on BrainLine.org and wrote: This blog is dedicated to caregivers — and to the loved ones who let us care for them, for their fortitude and the life lessons they teach us, and today, I’m letting you know that I am going to move on. I’m happy and sad all at once because I’ll be focusing on my day-to-day life and new writing projects, but I’ll miss all of you terribly.
Since I first worked at Brainline, I have blogged weekly, and then monthly, and eventually I took on the job of Editor, BrainLine Blogs, a position that allowed me to meet and interact with some of the most caring, generous, and enlightened professionals, survivors, and caregivers I have ever met in my life.
Back in 2002, when my husband sustained his severe TBI, I didn’t know of another wife in my situation and had no one to talk to that I thought vaguely understood my challenges. Hugh was “my person,” and he was the one I wanted to lean on for comfort, but he was in the ICU, in the acute brain rehab, in and out of surgery, and in a fog for nearly a year. When the fog lifted, I realized there was no going back to the way things were. Ever. And I bled on the page. I wrote out my grief every day—for years.
I first learned about BrainLine.org at a brain injury conference when I agreed to a videotaped interview for the site, and shortly after that interview, I was offered a chance to be their first regular blogger. Brainline gave me a soft landing pad to put my feelings, a safe place to express my hopes and fears, and none of it would work unless I told the raw truth.
The first time I sent a post out into the blogosphere, I worried about how I sounded, who I might offend, who might misunderstand me—in short, I wondered, why am I spilling my guts on paper for everyone to see? I was even once told that it might be better if I “suffered in silence.” Why was I doing this?
The answer popped up on my screen immediately. I received long comments, other shared stories, and many expressions of thanks for making this injury visible. The comments I heard back showed that thousands of people were yearning for connection with someone who knew their level of pain, heartbreak, isolation, loss, and brokenness.
Seventeen years ago, my husband nearly died, and I felt like I would, too, but we lived to tell a story. Hugh became my full partner in sharing, never censoring what I said, and for that, I’ll always be grateful because writing for BrainLine was the work of my life. It opened communication lines within my family; opened many doors to meaningful friendships, and helped us understand that what we thought was dysfunction was a natural reaction to an unnatural event.
Through BrainLine’s research articles, clinical and professional posts, I learned about the workings of the brain and about therapies that might help with healing, but more importantly, I learned how much heart it takes to rise above this injury from the people who have lived with it.
Hope—love—tenacity—go for it—get mad, let yourself be sad—but don’t let the madness or sadness swallow you. These were repeated themes, said in a thousand ways for a thousand reasons. These are the messages we need to hear again and again. And then there are the deeper messages, each exquisitely told by individuals facing unimaginable challenges.
If BrainLine is anything, it is a community. It’s a community that you can visit. There are voices here worth hearing. There is knowledge here worth knowing. There are resources here worth investigating.
Hugh and I are in our sixties now. We are still married and figuring out this life of ours. July 1st will mark our 41st wedding anniversary. It’s time for us to start a new chapter that is not centered on illness and injury. We take care of each other now, and that is how it should be.
To Noel, Christian, Kelly, and Victoria, thank you for taking me in. To all of our past and present regular bloggers: David Grant, Abby Maslin, Janna Hockenjos, Nicole Bingaman, and Norma Myers, I am in awe of your strength and ability to give of yourselves so freely. To all of our guest bloggers (and my guru, Mike Strand), thank you! Every story you have shared has been a gift, and every one was received.
I will hold BrainLine close, and I’ll be watching for all the goodness you will continue to put out into this hurting world.